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Annual general meetings are supposed to bring together shareholders allowing them to exercise their voting rights. Shareholders are the owners of a company, and due to their high numbers and indirect authority of the company they are required by the companies constitution to meet periodically and exercise their authority through voting1. The annual general meeting usually occurs in three phases, which include the pre-meeting phase where the shareholders are notified about the meeting, the actual meeting where the shareholders are supposed to convene for the meeting, and an after-meeting stage where the resolutions of the meeting are communicated2.
An annual general meeting serves a multiplicity of purposes. This includes providing a platform where the financial statements prepared by the companies can be approved by the companies’ shareholders3. The annual general meetings also provide a platform where board members can be replaced in case some have retired or resigned. The conference also offers a chance for the shareholders to elect an audit team or even determine the amount of money the auditors are going to be paid or carry out another business that they may be required to perform4.
Currently, as the technological revolution rages in the world, there has been an urgent need to carry out these meetings using cyberspace5. This can be useful given that the attendance of these meetings is usually poor6. Many people prefer to stay away and let the managers steer the company forward. Conducting meetings using teleconferencing or other virtual means can help companies conform to the new business conditions in the world7. This is because sometimes these meetings are seen as an inconvenience. Conducting virtual meetings also promises to fasten up the processes and activities carried out at the annual general meeting. This is because undertakings such as voting can be done online and thus the counting is automatic. This thus fastens the release of results and thus reducing the time taken to make decisions within corporations. Through virtual meetings organisations can also be able to make their operations efficient, this is because virtual meetings require fewer preparations, they also cost less and thus allowing the company to save the money involved in facilitating such meetings8.
Despite the many benefits that the virtual meetings likely result in, there are fears that they may also lead to legal questions being raised. This is because the law is not very assertive on many aspects of such meetings. There are however cases that can be used to validate virtual meetings. They include the case Byng v London Life Assurance, (1990). In this case, the court held upheld the meeting at London life Assurance Corporation that was held in different rooms and connected by audiovisual devices. It thus provided a new definition of meetings that it does not have to include the physical presence of those meeting. Also, Wagner v International Health Promotions (1994). In this case, the court said that meetings were not about bodies meeting but the minds9. This is because the bulk of the laws guiding how annuals general meetings should be conducted were developed during the era of traditional forms of meetings.
Questions arise on whether bores cast virtually are valid might arise. There is also the question of whether shareholders can be said to have attended a meeting while in the actual sense being absent. This is because virtual meetings do not require a person to be physically present that goes against the definition of a traditional meeting. It is thus important for legislations to be passed that address these legal questions. It would be important that legislations are passed that help to clarify the definition of a meeting. This may include virtual meetings which are more suitable for the current business environment. Legislations should also be passed that recognises virtual votes as valid votes to avoid misunderstandings that may lead to legal battles.
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